Brisbane sole trader penalised

7 October 2021

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a $30,000 penalty in court against a Brisbane sole trader for underpaying a young employee and breaching a Fair Work Commission order.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed the penalty against Mr Simon John Hickey, trading as Smerff Electrical.

In January 2019, the Fair Work Commission ordered Mr Hickey to pay $11,400 in compensation to an employee, then aged in his early 20s, after it found he had been unfairly dismissed after working for Mr Hickey as a casual trade assistant and later as an apprentice electrician.

Mr Hickey appealed the order but his appeal was dismissed in March 2019.

In addition to failing to pay the $11,400 ordered by the FWC, Mr Hickey underpaid the worker $5,504 in wages and $482.93 in superannuation in contravention of the Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010.

In June 2021, the Federal Circuit Court ordered Mr Hickey to pay compensation of $16,904.34 plus $482.93 superannuation and an order for interest, which remains outstanding.

The $30,000 penalty was imposed in September 2021 due to contraventions related to Mr Hickey’s failure to pay sufficient wages and related entitlements to the employee and the unfair dismissal compensation, each breaches of the Fair Work Act.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators who do not prioritise compliance with workplace laws need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.

“It is fundamental for the integrity of the workplace relations system that orders made by the Fair Work Commission are complied with, and we will take legal action to hold employers accountable and ensure employees receive compensation,” Ms Parker said.

“Employers should also be aware that it is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman to protect the workplace rights of young employees who can be particularly vulnerable to unlawful treatment. Any workers with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us,” Ms Parker said.

Judge Michael Jarrett said in his written judgment that Mr Hickey “has shown disregard and contempt for the applicant [The Fair Work Ombudsman] and the Fair Work Commission” and described his conduct as “egregious”.

“The failure to pay [the worker] according to his award entitlements is objectively serious. The amount of the underpayment is significant,” Judge Jarrett said.

“The respondent’s failure to comply with the Fair Work Commission order demonstrates a wilful disregard of the Fair Work Commission’s authority and integrity,” Judge Jarrett said.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.

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Media inquiries:

Claire Low, Senior Media Adviser
Mobile: 0418 825 074

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